19/05/2010 10:13

Peđa's Film Collection

Interview with Petar Protic

Your film selection named “Pedja’s Film Collection” offers some truly remarkable peaks of Hollywood film art. What have you prepared for us this year?

Freedom of my surroundings is of utmost importance to me, after my own personal freedom of course. This “freedom” does not imply freedom to park where you want, litter, talk loudly just for the sake of it and other stupidities. Freedom of knowledge and skills is what I seek, the thing that pushes the freedom to procrastinate, be ignorant, and freedom to fail. At least it should be. At least, that’s what I’ve seen in some great films, and in recent past I’ve seen a lot of examples which just confirm my claim that no one wants to work and everyone want to bark at the tree.

What I want to say is that, if my friends consider me a worthy film connoisseur, then why wouldn’t I be that for the benefit of festival audience and guests. I want to be that but under my conditions, be they stylistic, poetic or whatever they get to be with all of it directed to the fact that Pedja “played” a film on this and that… and in this or that film there was a detail that lit up someone’s day, taught him, reminded him or inspired him for something… heh, what a wave of consequences. That is the point of making a choice selection; a bit poetic since I create someone’s sense of freedom, a bit educational since I freely preach on things I’ve learned in my youth. That is probably the driving force of creative impulse, impulse to stir this idle village tha ate its cinemas and has been dozing and grumbling ever since. That’s why it needs to be fed small bites, like its been done in this Festival, otherwise it would get ill with excess culture and fun.

When you choose films, do you keep in mind audience of the Festival or maybe some special target group you wish to convey your message to, or do you think about it at all?

Films and film festivals are there for the audience. Those other aspects such as tourism and glamour are far less important. After I see a film I wonder who else would love it more than me, then I remember, then I muse on whether to include Forman’s “The Firemen's Ball“ or Capra’s “Arsenic and Old Lace” in my selection, and I do all that along with my actual job. I prove hardship and work and I seek freedom among moving pictures, among mirrors, in the past and after all, under the burden I carry, I always turn at the beauty and freedom because majority of the audience will come to the cinema to get away from something, to relax. Thus I found myself in a role that I myself chose. Most other roles I didn’t choose but had them thrust upon me. The roles I did choose are the most beloved ones, a role of father is surely the most precious of all and the hardest.

When you made a 2008 selection your main criterion was chronology. Last year it was genre. What criterion was guiding you when choosing this year’s selection?

Researchers at Wayne University in Michigan did a study on laughter. They studied over 200 baseball players from 1952 mayor league. They classified them by laughter and smiles, dividing them on those who showed their whole teeth when smiling or just partially or not at all, those who had false smiles etc… A detailed analysis deduced that those from the group “without smiles” lived to up to 73 years, while those “smiling” lived to be over 75, even 80. Since I always valued contribution of those working in prevention, never of those working on consequences, with conviction that laughter truly is the best medicine, this year I’ll do my best to replace last year’s bitter laugh of “Brazil” and “Being There” with nostalgic smiles and I even added a subtitle – keep smiling. The man who doesn’t laugh becomes invisible, boring and lonely!

How many films will be screened within your selection and how complex is the selection process itself?

Seven films, five European and two American. Selector’s personal choice insists on that spot where bitter becomes sweet, where comedy meets tragedy, where you ask: “What’s funny here?”. It was what guided me last year, but this year I chose to give it a rest and instead offer visitors a trip down to the sewers, among “Ugly, Dirty and Bad” dwell and where vagabonds of all sorts wouldn’t hesitate to sell their own mother for a million.

Could you give us your personal opinion as to your favorite film from this year’s selection or maybe your favorite director among those seven.

I can’t single out any of those seven directors. Buñuel and Fellini have been my guides for such a long time. This year visitors will be able to see "The Phantom of Liberty" and “I remember”(“Amarcord”), two very entertaining films with morals. I believe people of my age and those who are older will certainly wish to once more see those pillars of film art. Tati’s humor is an homage to a true mise-en-scène and a shortcut to Chaplin and Keaton and I know younger audience never saw “Mon Oncle”. That is a magic of few words and funny throughout, an hour and a half of laughter. Then there are comedy classics like “Arsenic and Old Lace” by Frank Capra, and Billy Wilder’s romantic comedy “The Apartment” and English classic “The Italian Job”, with its memorable mini morris car chase through the streets of Torino, during a football match between England and Italy.

Can you single out some of the films from last year’s festival, films that made a positive impression on you?

I will remember a winner “Tony Manero” and “The Burning Plain” by Guillermo Arriaga whom I’ve met and with whom I share an affection for Juan Rulfo, a Mexican writer. “Sin Nombre” a tragic story of young emigrants which travel on roofs of the trains from impoverished south to plentiful American north. Turkish cinematography also made huge steps in the last decade. “Autumn” and “My Only Sunshine” surely are the perfect examples of said fact. Also, Bulgarians made “Eastern Plays” a very successful Bulgarian-Turkish co-production and it surely is the best Bulgarian film in the last decade. And of course, everyone knows of expansion of Romanian realism. All those are films which had limited budget but which managed to give vivid portrayals of people overrun with problems in places that are inevitably changing and in times which carry us all.

In talks we had in the last two years, every time we mentioned your impressive private film collection. We believe you enriched your collection with a great number of new titles, since we last spoke. Would you be so kind as to recommend some of the titles which would be a quality training and a must-see before your film marathon at Cinema City?

Yes, I do have a lot of new titles but two from last year are especially important to me: Argentinean “Historias Extraordinarias” by Mariano Llinás and Japanese “Love Exposure” by Shion Sono. I’m truly impressed with these films since they summarize and promote storytelling in cinematography. Both are four hours long but both have the original and new approach to the storytelling and they manage to keep one’s attention and to even elevate suspense. It is a very difficult job when you don’t have millions to spend on effects. I always loved simple films, shot with small budgets, but eternal like “Dodesukaden” or “The Passion of Joan of Arc”.

Collection is yet again changing its shape and although half of these films you can see at youtube or somewhere similar, I keep my freedom of choice in accordance with times, “im der lauf der zeit”. I’m still a collector but I use Twitter and other social networks, e.g. mubi.com, ex The Auteurs, or neighboring festivals, exchange, cooperation. I think that after (1) look/find/upload came (2) think/shoot/upload, in other words (3) show what you know and what you’ve got and I like it because I am well prepared.